Kuala Lumpur 10
I had a plan. Leave early from the hostel, catch a bus to TBS (let's pretend that stands for The Bus Station), and take an intercity bus to Butterworth, Penang. Then get the ferry from Butterworth to George Town, and a bus most of the way to my next end destination. I'd be there by mid-afternoon.
The night before, I met some people who were planning to take the train to Butterworth on the same day. The train is a little more expensive, and I'd read a little slower and less comfortable. But there wasn't much in it, and the more I thought about it the more appealing taking one train over two buses became. Plus all three of them ended up in my dorm that night. So I joined their little crew: C (Essex), L (Netherlands), Y (Russia). We left the hostel, bright eyed and bushy tailed, by 0830, hopped on the train from Pasar Seni to KL Sentral, and then found the ticket counters for the intercity trains (upstairs, above the Komuter ones).
The trains were full until 11:40. That felt like aaages away.
Trains sell out?!
So we took a taxi to TBS. A taxi voucher counter was conveniently around the corner from the train ticket counter. Splitting 27 myr between four of us for a fifteen minute drive didn't seem so bad. I'd read the buses were super frequent, so we were confident on not losing much time at all.
How naive we were.
This is only half of the bus station.
We queued for an hour, to find out that all the buses were sold out until 18:10.
There are a dozen bus companies, with departures for Penang every ten to fifteen minutes. All day. We sucked it up and bought the last four tickets on the 18:10 bus, for 34 myr each. The company turned out to be Konsortium. Not one of the fancy ones with wifi. Then we went for coffee et cetera at the bus station food court. L bought coffee, the coffee was awful. We all took one tiny sip each and could not go further. I have since discovered there's a common type of coffee that contains margarine. What the FUCK Malaysia? Yeah it was awful. I had starfruit juice.
After recouping, we crammed our bags into lockers (10 myr for a big one, 5 for a small, 12 hours), except for C whose suitcase wouldn't fit. Then we walked about 30 minutes to a nearby mall. C complained the whole way about pulling his suitcase. I kept suggesting I'd help but never actually doing so. It was mostly uphill, and pavements are uneven. His complaints were justified.
The mall, which was called Spark, was quite desolate. We saw Moana at the cinema on the top floor (16 myr). Then we went to a grim food court and ate very sad vegetable soup. I think eating it used more energy than it provided, because I was far hungrier afterwards. It was now raining. We started walking back, and eventually managed to get a taxi who was willing to take a suitcase. 10myr from Spark to TBS. Whilst edging along the roadside trying to hail taxis, a motorcycle with two helmetless ten year olds drove past on a scooter and catcalled at Y and me. There are too many things wrong with that. My first reaction was horror that they didn't have helments. The second was that there were small children driving scooter down a highway. I decided to stop processing at that point.
Back at TBS, we sought better coffee and sat around some more. Then relcaimed our luggage and made our way to the departures. The bus station was still packed, just like in the morning. Our bus was delayed, but only about 20 minutes, presumably to make way for earlier buses which had been delayed even more.
The bus seats were big and reclined far. Loads of room for a small person. There was neither power nor wifi. The aircon was sufficient. I slept fairly well. Somehow the 350km journey took ten hours. I'm not exaggerating. We stopped a few times at service stations and food courts, and there was a crazy amount of traffic on the highway for the middle of the night. We got to Butterworth at about 4am.
Obviously neither the ferries nor the buses were running. The bus dropped off right next to a taxi rank, and we argued with taxi drivers for a while. Despite our fatigued state, it still seemed worth trying to get them down from 80 myr to George Town. They were claiming 80 myr for two stops (because C, L and Y were going to a different place from me) or 70myr for one stop. We asked for 60, and must have appeared stubborn enough that eventually a more senior looking taxi driver came over and told the lad we were haggling with to just take us for 70. He reluctantly agreed, and proceeded to fail miserably at packing our stuff in his boot. It would have fit, he just clearly didn't have an engineering bone in his body. His solution was to summon a friend, whose car to me appeared exactly the same. We packed it ourselves this time, and had no problem. The new taxi driver was far less talkative. He knew the road I was going to, but not the others' hostel address. Despite me being further out, I got dropped off first. I contributed 25 myr.
The security guard at the front of my AirBnB was sleeping in his little cabin, having stayed behind to give me the keys. I was very grateful. The apartment seems nice and stuff. I'm on the 10th floor of a new tower block. It has a balcony and a pool. There's no cooking pots, but an abundance of terrible margarine instant coffee.
Anyway, advice for long distance travel in Malaysia might be:
- Don't travel at weekends?
- Don't travel on Prophet Mohammed's birthday?
- Book your train or bus tickets in advance, online?
- If you're offered a two and a half hour wait for a train, for goodness sake take it.
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